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Sunday, March 16, 2003

Protest for the sake of protesting...

Over last few weeks, I've been following with interest the storm that has been raised over the installation of Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's portrait in the Central Hall of the Parliament. It's as if the Government has put up the portrait of Satan himself. It's almost childish... the arguments put forth by Savarkar's detractors. Half of them do not know the facts and most of them, I'm sure, do not even know Savarkar's full name... leave alone his ideology. Reading the various articles penned by the pro and anti Savarkar columnists and "intellectuals", I can't help but feel that the attacks and the defense are oriented at one or two specific instances from Savarkar's eventful life i.e. his pro-Hindu ideology, his much-maligned act of seeking forgiveness for getting himself released from the notorious Cellular Jail at Andaman and his two-nation theory.

We have seen the most vociferous opposition coming from the Communists. The entire Left abstained from attending the portrait unveiling ceremony. Picking up the refrain, the Congress started opposing the installation of the portrait as well. Seeing the opposition up in arms, the Government could not keep quiet and launched a counter attack defending its decision. Thus started the war of words which has since then spilled out of the Parliament halls and into the media, tarnishing the name of a grossly misunderstood figure from India's history. To top it all, I'm amazed at the reaction of the public. They have unleashed a vitriolic campaign comparing Savarkar to Hitler... Please!!... excuse me while I barf!

Let us look at facts... and only facts!

Any decision to install a portrait in the Central Hall of the Parliament can never be a unilateral decision by the government in power. It's a decision taken by a committee which looks into the merits and demerits of such an action and the contributions made by the historical figure in question. Such a committee was formed this time as well... to decide on installing Savarkar's portrait. And it included Pranab Mukherji from the Congress and... hold your breath... Comrade Indrajit Gupta, veteran Communist Parliamentarian. The committee's decision to install Savarkar's portrait was unanimous. Where, then, did the seed of opposition germinate??

Swatantryaveer Savarkar has a sprawling memorial dedicated to him in Mumbai. It's a beautiful but simple structure with a huge statue of Savarkar on a large terrace overlooking the Dadar Chowpatty at Shivaji Park. It was built on the recommendation of a committee headed by Jayantrao Tilak (a Congress leader and the grandson of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak). Another Congress leader, Yashwantrao Chavan was the member of that Committee too. And the funds for the memorial came partly from the personal account of none other than the then PM, late Indira Gandhi. And now... the same Congress headed by the Desh ki bahu Sonia Gandhi is staunchly opposing Savarkar!

One of the biggest argument against Swatantryaveer Savarkar is that he advocated the two-nation theory. This is crap. As a proponent of Hindutva, Savarkar always advocated the concept of Akhand Bharat rather than work towards partitioning India on communal lines. Savarkar's Hindu Mahasabha had rejected the British Cabinet Mission Plan of May 1946 which proposed that provinces (formed on the basis of communal/religious majority) would have their own constitutions. It was Jinnah's acceptance of this pan that led to fruitless discussions and consequently, scrapping of that plan. The only option left for the British government was to transfer power to a partitioned India. This plan was accepted by both, the Congress as well as Jinnah. There are numerous examples where Savarkar agreed to side with the Congress on the condition that it would ensure the unity and integrity of the Indian nation.

Arvind Lavakare's column on Rediff, titled "Hitler, Vatican and Gandhi" only just begins to stir the surface of the controversial parts of the freedom struggle. It highlights the role that Gandhiji played in the partition of India while showing clearly how Savarkar's two-nation statement was not the cause of the partition of India. And the best thing about the column is that Mr. Lavakare quotes history texts and documents to support his claims rather than shooting his mouth off.

The Communists have no right to even begin to accuse Savarkar of being a proponent of the two-nation theory. Coomunists have always advocated until recently that India is a confederation of nationalities. They have advocated, as recently as the sixties, that provinces like Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, etc. are not states or provinces but nationalities which are a part of the Indian confederation. We have seen how this kind of communist confederation has crumbled into nothingness when USSR broke up. If Savarkar is being accused of promoting two nations, Communists have been guilty of advocating a divisive, multi-nation theory... and that too a good twenty years after the independence. Clearly a case of pot calling the kettle black.

Swatantryaveer Savarkar has been accused of asking for pardon instead of undergoing an imprisonment. History is replete with examples of revolutionaries asking pardon and forgiveness from the powers that imprisoned them. The great Italian nationalist (Soniaji, please note!) Giuseppe Mazzini did the same thing. So did Yogi Arvind, who was a staunch revolutionary before running away from the British and seeking asylum in the French controlled Pondicherry before giving up his ways to become a spiritual leader.

Revolutionaries like Savarkar or pacifists like Gandhi, were working for a common cause, freedom for India. Armed struggle alone could not have achieved the objective. Neither could Gandhiji's method of non-violence and submission persuade the British to eave the country. Both kinds of freedom fighters have their place in history and seeing one through the glasses of the other will only result in unnecessary hatred and misunderstanding.


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Sameer/Male/27. Hails from India/Maharashtra/Mumbai/Prabhadevi, speaks Marathi, English and Hindi. Spends 60% of daytime online. Uses a Faster (1M+) connection. And likes Reading/Computers.